Cremation

by L. Roger Quilter


What happens to the human spirit when someone dies? Is there another dimension beyond our comprehension? I often wondered about life after death throughout my life, but now it doesn’t seem to matter. I am unsure about my destination as I appear to be floating in limbo.

I am thinking with great clarity and wondering if my thoughts can possibly be transmitted back to the world of the living, somehow. I want to let people know what I am experiencing.

My change in affairs occurred a few days ago. Where I am going I know not, but time is a commodity I don’t require. Why should I? After all I am in a dead state!

I am unaware if I move on from here as I feel (no, my senses are finished) there is a place beyond my limited horizon. I only know that I am alone with no purpose; no aims or ideas. Can I see? I am not sure, but I am aware of things.

This situation started after I went to bed five days ago. As usual I left my wife, Jean, to finish her knitting. I always go to bed first and Jean follows much later. Tonight was to prove a very different night than all the others in our forty years of marriage.

Jean entered our bedroom and undressed in the dark. She entered the bathroom, took a shower, and walked into our bedroom, threw back the covers and got into bed. Her next move was habitual. She shoved her cold feet into the middle of my back.

Jean screamed! This was something different. She was agitated by something. I could tell by her sobbing that something was not right. I tried to turn over to comfort her and ask what was wrong. I couldn’t move! No muscle stirred and I wondered why. Then I seemed to sense my spirit was inside a dead body.

Jean quietly composed herself and left to use the telephone. She called my doctor and her brother, and returned to the bedroom to cover me with a sheet. Even though my eyes were covered, there was no diminishing of what senses I had remaining. She opened the bottom desk drawer and removed it. I had taped an envelope to the bottom of that drawer. It contained several thousand dollars in hundred-dollar bills we had hidden there twenty years ago. My Jean always had a practical mind! Remove the cash prior to the will being read.

I sensed her pulling out the top drawer. Good grief; she knew about my hidden love letters firmly taped to the underside of the cabinet’s top! Jean removed the slender package and ran downstairs. I just knew those letters were about to be burnt in the embers of our living room fire. I thought I had fooled her about events that transpired more than forty years ago.

I do not have any sense of time. Events go on and I need no sleep and I am completely unaware if it is night or day. I just seem to know what is going on even outside the room where my body rests.

I suppose several days have gone by because I now find my remains resting in a cheap casket. There are a lot of people sitting in the seats of a fairly large room, which I recognize as a place where I have said farewell to a lot of friends. We are in the chapel at the burial grounds and my open coffin rests in view of everybody. This is my funeral service.

Jean and our three daughters and their families are in a separate enclosure concealed from the other mourners. Incense is burning, yet I detect no odor. Flowers are on tables on either side; no fragrance is discernible. Without the use of my organs I am now inanimate.

I do have a sense of freedom. That is one sense not denied me. I have no pain from my shattered hip. I broke it after a fall a year ago and the operation to replace it was unsuccessful. My asthmatic breathing no longer exists; but then neither do I, for that matter.

The service drags on and I sense the rustling of thin booklets that people are reading to follow the service. Each has an old photo of me inside, taken many years ago when Jean and I were on holiday in Barbados. All the latest photographs are marred by the expression of pain I show.

The hymns they sing are my wife’s favorites, not mine. She has not honored my wishes. I can do nothing about it, anyway.

The service ends, the passage of time is not relevant for me. I follow the movements as people move to the reception area. My spirit or ghost follows and it seems I look down on the gathering from above.

My friends have already gathered in groups remembering the past. I know most of the mourners will end up in a drunken stupor; because it is the way my peers celebrate at a wake. Most are hard drinkers and find any excuse to imbibe. When the departed is laid to rest is one of their better reasons.

The amount of food at this service is enormous. The womenfolk have spent days cooking up a vast feast to send me off. I have never seen so many dishes. I know the succulent aroma of cooking is overpowering, but not for me.

Sherry has been provided, but I notice many have a supply of hard spirits to spike the wine. Eventually the mourners will get tired, the party will peter out and the last drunks will stagger home. I attended many wakes as my friends and relatives aged. I feel left out of this one as nobody addresses me; why should they? I can supply no answer.

One diminutive lady stands apart with a wistful look on her pale face. It is Emma, the woman who wrote the love letters my wife found. She is out of place here and knows it. Nobody seems to recognize her, and she is alone with her memories; memories only she and I shared, until I died. Jean has known about our liaison for some time, it seems.

Emma’s husband passed away and, as I was a co-worker, I attended his funeral as a pallbearer. Several hours later, in a drunken state, I attempted to console her. We were conscious of the attraction between us and I made a date to visit her at home. I also said that I could help her with the deceased’s effects.

One thing led to another and we drifted into a brief affair. It lasted a few weeks and then guilt swept over the two of us and I ended our liaison.

I received three letters from her in the ensuing months. I hid them in a file folder taped to underneath the cabinet top.

I am conscious that the coffin is being moved and I seem to pass into it as it is wheeled along a corridor. Iron doors open and the casket moves on rollers into the oven. The doors clang shut and I sense the flames turned up to full power. I feel no heat, I smell no smoke. I just know my corpse is being reduced to ashes; a small amount of ashes.

Eventually the doors are opened and the oven is cleaned out. The fiery inferno has done its job. It will be prepared to carry out the next cremation. Now I have no body to dwell in. I am without anything human to support me. There is nowhere I can spend any time. Time? It doesn’t matter any more.

I am left drifting in space. I often wondered if my spirit would end up in a new-born baby’s body after I died, but I sense no movement of my soul heading for a maternity ward. Where will I be going? I have no idea. I am simply drifting, drifting.

“I wonder which way the old coot has gone,” Jean smiled at Emma.

“He told me after our affair he would wind up ’twixt Heaven and Hell.”

“Not once did he suspect anything was going on between us.”

“We don’t have to hide anymore, do we?”

“No, but I bet we eventually end up down below, don’t you?”

“You mean we may pass by him on the way?”

Both women chuckled as they made their way to my bed. What a fiendish pair; I am now doomed to wait here until they die.


Copyright © 2006 by L. Roger Quilter

Home Page